If you’re yearning for cheesy Italian ravioli or African bobotie, a homey bowl of shrimp ’n’ grits or a savoury bowl of ramen, you’ll find it in Orlando. Famed for its action-packed theme parks, this city also excels on the dining front, with local chefs turning out a mix of distinctly Floridian dishes alongside authentic ethnic options that embrace flavours from the community’s multicultural residents. Add in cozy coffee spots, personable IPAs and standout craft cocktails, and you’ll realize this is a must-visit culinary destination.
Located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, this chef-driven dining room celebrates African cuisine by cooking up chermoula, kachumbarie and bobotie alongside familiar items like chicken and steak. The extensive South African wine list is impressive.
Hot restaurants come and go, but this gastropub has outlasted them all, plating up its sustainable and sometimes-Southern specialties like Gruyère biscuits, shrimp and grits, and grouper with smoked tomato risotto since 2007.
Insanely satisfying handcrafted pasta, along with an ever-changing progressive-Italian menu that features dishes like caponata with summer squash and burrata cheese or a wood-fired whole branzino make this rustic-chic space the type of place local chefs visit on their night off.
Don’t leave Orlando without eating: Seafood stew at The Rusty Spoon
With shellfish pulled from Central Florida waters, plus a peanut-shrimp broth, creamy grits and garlicky greens, the robust “Dirty South” seafood stew at The Rusty Spoon blends local delights with Dixie darlings. This always-on-the-menu cioppino is just one of the many reasons to work chef-owner Kathleen Blake’s downtown Orlando hot spot into your itinerary.
Signature dining experience in Orlando: 1921 by Norman Van Aken
Venture to nearby Mount Dora to dine at 1921 by Norman Van Aken, where chefs fuse familiar and unexpected Florida ingredients in new ways—starting with fresh fish caught on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Try dishes like beer battered fish tacos with avocado and Zellwood corn relish. The restaurant is set in a century-old home, and modern art from the nearby Modernism Museum complements the cozy, quirky series of dining spaces that include a Chef’s Table room and an outdoor deck and courtyard.
Gala apple, key lime, botanicals and Mediterranean tonic add oomph to the classic gin and tonic served at this 17th-floor Four Seasons rooftop lounge that offers views of Walt Disney World.
Whether you share a decanter of blueberry-basil gimlet or indulge in your very own barrel-aged white negroni, you’ll feel old-time elegant at this third-floor hideaway where the servers wear butler costumes.
Dove 75, a gin cocktail infused with butterfly pea flower, orange oil sugar, lemon juice and Champagne, is the purple darling of DoveCote, an all-day (7 a.m. to 10 p.m), French-inspired neighbourhood brasserie.
Winter Garden Historic District
This restored strip features Mexican, Singaporean and Thai fare along with a brewery (Crooked Can Brewing Company) and the Plant St. Market, a community market stocked with pizza, sushi, smoothies and more.
Audubon Park Garden District
In this hipster-heavy food centre, you’ll find small-batch bakers such as P is for Pie and The Gourmet Muffin, as well as the East End Market, filled with stalls such as Domu, serving up ramen, and Lineage, where java is serious stuff.
Wholesome pies and the signature pistachio cake—buttercream frosting, pounded nuts and vanilla custard included—make Sister Honey’s, just south of downtown, an unadorned favourite.
When the sun shines, chill with a cup of all-American dairy-fresh graham cracker ice cream from Kelly’s Homemade in Audubon Park.
Across the street from Kelly’s Homemade, Gideon’s Bakehouse doles out massive chocolate chip cookies, some coated in candied nuts.
If you’re all about chocolate, David Ramirez Chocolates will charm you with artisan truffles and more.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Orlando 32 times a week from 12 Canadian cities.